Congratulations, America

It goes way beyond the election of the first African-American president, of course. It goes to a new policy in Iraq. And in Guantanamo. It goes to new regulation on Wall Street — or should that just be regulation, period? It goes to new hope for universal healthcare and environmental sanity and to a new spirit of international comity and cooperation.

But it also goes to the election of the first African-American president.

To a white boy raised to believe such a thing was not only not possible, but not desirable, a white boy nevertheless caught up as a young teenager in the dreams of the civil rights movement — only to see those dreams turn into nightmares of assasination, cities on fire, and the politics of division, whether the unvarnished race-baiting of George Wallace or the more genteel, and more dangerous, “law and order” pandering of Richard Nixon — to a white boy born the day you elected Ike, America, and who wakes up on his latest birthday 56 years later to discover you’ve elected a black man, it definitely goes to the election of the first African-American president.

So savoring tears of joy, I say congratulations, America. Congratulations, President-elect Obama. And the happiest of birthdays to me.